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Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness

Kotarsky, Christopher, J.1; Christensen, Bryan, K.1; Miller, Jason, S.2; Hackney, Kyle, J.1

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: March 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 3 - p 651–659
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002345
Original Research

Kotarsky, CJ, Christensen, BK, Miller, JS, and Hackney, KJ. Effect of progressive calisthenic push-up training on muscle strength and thickness. J Strength Cond Res 32(3): 651–659, 2018—Calisthenics, a form of resistance training, continue to increase in popularity; however, few studies have examined their effectiveness for muscle strength improvement. The purpose of this study was to determine whether progressive calisthenic push-up training (PUSH) is comparable with traditional bench press training (BENCH) as a technique for increasing muscle strength and thickness. Twenty-three healthy, moderately trained men (mean ± SD: age 23 ± 6.8 years) completed the study. Subjects were randomly assigned to PUSH (n = 14) and BENCH (n = 9) groups and were trained 3 days per week for 4 weeks. Muscle thickness (MT), seated medicine ball put (MBP), 1 repetition maximum (1RM) bench press, and push-up progression (PUP) were measured before and after training. Results revealed significant increases in 1RM (p < 0.001) and PUP (p < 0.001) for both groups after training. The increase in PUP was significantly greater for PUSH (p < 0.001). No significant differences were found within groups for MT and MBP (p > 0.05). This study is the first to demonstrate that calisthenics, using different progressive variations to maintain strength training programming variables, can improve upper-body muscle strength.

1Muscle, Metabolism, and Ergogenics Laboratory, Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota; and

2Department of Athletics, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota

Address correspondence to Christopher J. Kotarsky,

Copyright © 2018 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.